Switzerland condemned for lack of climate action in landmark ruling

AFP - [email protected]
Switzerland condemned for lack of climate action in landmark ruling
Protesters hold a banner reading "without you, Switzerland would look old" during a rally before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Photo by Frederick FLORIN / AFP

Europe's top rights court ruled on Tuesday that Switzerland was failing to respect "right to private and family life" due to the government"s failure to do enough to tackle climate change.


The European Court of Human Rights issued its decision after a Swiss association of older women concerned about the consequences of global warming argued that the Swiss authorities were not taking enough action to mitigate climate change.

It found that the Swiss state had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the "right to respect for private and family life", according to the ruling seen by AFP.

The landmark case was brought forward by the Swiss association of Elders for Climate Protection -- 2,500 women aged 73 on average -- and four of its members who also put forward individual complaints.

They complained about "failings of the Swiss authorities" in terms of climate protection, which "would seriously harm their state of health".

Activist Greta Thunberg said the ruling was "only the beginning".

"This is only the beginning of climate litigation," she said at the European Court of Human Rights in the French city of Strasbourg.

"All over the world more and more people are taking their government to court, holding them responsible for their actions."

The court however threw out two other cases also concerning government policies on climate change on procedural grounds.

It dismissed a petition from six Portuguese people, aged 12 to 24, against 32 states including their own as the case had not exhausted all remedies at the national level.

In a third case, the court rejected a claim from a former French mayor that the inaction of the French state posed the risk of his town being submerged under the North Sea.


The court found that he was not a victim in the case because he had moved to Brussels.

Prior to the landmark ruling lawyer Gerry Liston, of the NGO Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) said The court's position "may mark a turning point in the global struggle for a liveable future."

"A victory in any of the three cases could constitute the most significant legal development on climate change for Europe since the signing of the Paris 2015 Agreement" that set new targets for governments to reduce emissions, he said.

The Paris Agreement set targets for governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The decisions from the court in the French city of Strasbourg came as Europe's climate monitor said March this year had been the hottest on record.


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